Why was Ami the Most Popular of the Sailor Soldiers?

Ami – A Political Powerhouse

Ami – A Political Powerhouse

One of the enduring mysteries of the Sailor Moon franchise is that of the perplexing popularity of Ami – the shy, bookish brains of the Sailor Team – especially among fans in the West. I’m sure it’s no mystery at all to those who count themselves among her fans, of course, but from a purely objective perspective, it seems a bit strange that the soft-spoken, brainy character (who didn’t even have a particularly abnormal amount of episodes even devoted to her, mind you) would end up constantly ranking at the tops of Japanese polls. So how is it that Ami came to be the most popular of the inners, and what does it tell us about Japanese fans of Sailor Moon as a group?

Before testing any theory, though, it’s important to first see if there’s any truth to your hypothesis. So we should first ask: is Ami actually popular? And how do we know?

In order to answer this question, I dug through the archives of the Japanese anime magazine, Animage,1 and tallied up their monthly “favorite character” rankings, which allows all of their readers to vote for their favorite anime characters and tallies them up. Since the anime runs on a schedule of March to February and the magazine ships early, I’ll be comparing seasons from June through May for the magazine results. They’re actually pretty surprising! [Note: Popularity counts from 1 down to ~20, so 1 is the highest.]

Continue Reading

What is the Story Behind ChibiUsa / Small Lady’s Name?

An Unreadable Poker Face

An Unreadable Poker Face

What’s in a name? That’s a question we’ve asked many times already, but it’s always worth taking another look at the characters we love just a little bit closer and see if there’s something more to find out about them in something as simple as what we call them. If you want to talk about name mysteries, ChibiUsa definitely has a lot to offer to the conversations — she has a pretty long name after all! Her official name is Usagi Small Lady Serenity,1 though she’s typically referred to as ChibiUsa (Sailor Pluto, however, typically prefers Small Lady in the Black Moon Family arc) in order to avoid confusion with Usagi. So where does the Small Lady name come from?

Though Naoko has never officially remarked on this in detail, we can make some interesting inferences from what we know about language use in manga.

She's not 'chibi,' and don't forget it!

She’s not ‘chibi,’ and don’t forget it!

What’s interesting about the Small Lady name is that it’s already written either in roman characters as “S L” or written out in the Japanese phonetic alphabet, katakana, which is used for foreign words and sound effects.2 Though at first glance, this may imply that there’s no deeper meaning to be had, but that leads us into an interesting use of language in manga: very often, authors will intentionally apply kanji to Western words (to give them context) or will read a kanji with a Western word. One of the more famous examples is the first appearance of Super Saiyans in the Dragon Ball manga. What we all know of as Super Saiyan can be written in Japanese as either スーパーサイヤ人 (su-pa-saiyajin) or as 超サイヤ人 (su-pa-saiyajin),3 though it’s interesting to note that 超 should be read as chou and cannot be read as “super.”4

So why all this talk about Dragon Ball? Well, it was an anime and manga contemporary to Sailor Moon so we know that the phenomenon was already common at the time and gives credence to the idea that there might be some deeper meaning to the Small Lady name. Fortunately for us, the options are pretty limited, but the most likely choice for a kanji reading for Small Lady is: 少女 (shoujo; lit. small lady / maiden)5 If that sounds familiar to you, well, it should: these are the very same characters used in the title of the series: 美少女戦士セーラームーン (bishoujo senshi se-ra-mu-n; Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon). An alternative literal kanji choice would also be 乙女 (otome; lit. small lady / maiden). You would probably recognize this word as the ending theme to the Sailor Moon R anime: 乙女のポリシー (otome no porishi-; Maiden’s Policy).6 More likely than not, the Small Lady name is in reference to the very term her mother, Usagi, used to refer to herself as a sailor-suited soldier of justice.

Usagi Small Lady Serenity

Usagi Small Lady Serenity

The story with ChibiUsa’s name is interesting in general due to the Serenity name connecting her to her mother and even down the line to her grandmother. Even more interesting is that she doesn’t seem to be given a last name (neither Tsukino nor Chiba), which implies that the people of Crystal Tokyo don’t use last names. It may be a small detail, but I’m glad to see that Usagi maintained her independence, even through marriage!

What is the Connection Between Sailor Moon and Pop-Tarts?

The Power of Strawberry Pop-Tarts

The Power of Strawberry Pop-Tarts

For anyone who’s been involved in the Sailor Moon fandom for an extended period of time, this is a story that’s probably familiar to you already. But occasionally, I like to take a look back at the evolution of the Sailor Moon fandom and see where we as Sailor Moon fans have come from and how the community has changed over the years. But let’s talk a bit about the bizarre connection between Sailor Moon and Pop-Tarts!

Back in the late 1990s, there was a group/website known as Save Our Sailors (hereinafter, SOS)1 which was dedicated to campaigning to finish the Sailor Moon dub. The original dub done by DiC only went halfway through Sailor Moon R and ultimately left English-speaking fans with no way to see how things with the Black Moon Family turned out, shy of importing fan-subbed copies. For reasons which are unclear, the members of SOS had determined that the reason why Sailor Moon was dropped in North America was due to a lack of sponsors and, further, that Kellogg’s would be a great potential sponsor for the show.

How they reached that conclusion and that having a “procott” (basically, the opposite of a boycott where everyone buys a certain product on a certain day) was, to put it gently, unscientific at best, but there was definitely heart behind their ideas! According to the members of the SOS Team:2

During the Summer (after we found out that the show was going to be dropped), we started to write down every commercial on the show.

When we finished the list we took off those things which we all couldn’t buy.

[…]

The products shown at the top are the ones our members got to vote for. These products had the most commercials. We thought whoever put on the most commercials deserved to be nominated!

So begins the epic story of the Great Strawberry Pop-Tart Procott to Save Sailor Moon (hereinafter, the GSP-TPSSM). I’m ashamed to say that unfortunately I didn’t take part in it since I didn’t even know Sailor Moon existed back on December 14, 1996, though I doubt my paltry several dollars would have helped much. As we all know with our 20/20 hindsight, not only did the GSP-TPSSM fail, but it was ultimately General Mills – Kellogg’s main competitor – that wound up sponsoring bringing Sailor Moon back to the airwaves (even if only in syndication and with no new episodes).3

And there you have it! The bizarre tale of how a group of very dedicated (and well-meaning) fans managed to forever tie the Japanese anime Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon to a sugary-sweet breakfast pastry that none of my Japanese friends will ever eat.4

Only tangentially-related, but I’ll leave you with this video of Super Sailor Moon selling potato soup!

Why Did Usagi Become Queen of Crystal Tokyo at 22?

Our Future Queen

Our Future Queen

There’s one thing that’s always been bothering me about the introduction of ChibiUsa and, by extension, the introduction of the setting behind Crystal Tokyo and its monarch, Neo-Queen Serenity. I don’t mean “bother” in a bad way, of course. More like one of those niggling1 little doubts that always seems a bit off. In a series that is ostensibly about female empowerment, contains many female leaders (Queen Serenity, Queen Beryl, Queen Metalia, Neo-Queen Serenity, Sailor Galaxia… I could go on), and stars a main character that is infinitely more powerful than her romantic interest and male counterpart, why did Ms. Takeuchi decide to have Usagi give birth to ChibiUsa and assume the throne as Neo-Queen Serenity at the age of 22?

Continue Reading

What’s the Significance of Ami’s Parents Being Divorced?

Ami and her BFF Luna

Ami and her BFF Luna

The world of Sailor Moon is definitely not kind to happy and stable family lives, at least where parents are concerned. Between Makoto and her trouble with airplanes, Mamoru and his issue with cars, Rei and her difficulties with childbirth, and Hotaru and lab explosions, there seems to be dead parent epidemic going around – and that’s only among the main cast! When you look at it that way, I guess you could say that Ami got pretty lucky with only having her parents divorce. While divorce is a common thing that most of us have first- or second-hand experience with now, what did it mean for viewers back in 1990’s Japan? Surely how Japanese fans perceived it was different than how we look at it now (and in the west), right?

Saeko Mizuno

Saeko Mizuno

Like everything else we discuss, the answer is “complicated.” So let’s start with what we do know: Ami’s parents are divorced, her mother is a doctor, her father is an artist, and after the divorce she kept her father’s name.1 Divorce was certainly not uncommon back in the 1990s in Japan, but it definitely wasn’t something you generally saw on tv or in anime, so that was certainly forward-thinking of Ms. Takeuchi to put in. For a little bit of context, the crude divorce rate (i.e., the rate of divorce per 1,000 people)2 in 1991 in Japan was 1.4% (vs. 2.0% in 2010)3 and 4.7%4 and 6.8%5 respectively in the U.S.

Where Japan and America (and much of the west, in fact) differ most of all when it comes to divorce is that Japan is still a sole-custody-only country – meaning that shared/joint custody is not possible. In the overwhelming number of cases (nearing 90%), the mother retains custody of the children and the father is out of the picture. In fact, in nearly 40% of the cases, the non-custodial parent never sees their child again.6 This would explain why Ami continues to live with her mother and her father only keeps in touch via postcards.

We also know that she learned to swim and play chess from her father as a way of “keeping herself centered,” so we can assume they had a pretty good relationship. Her father is also a member of an high-class sports club (and the other members clearly know who he is), so we can probably assume that he does (or used to) live in the Tokyo area.

Ami's Father

Ami’s Father

Though it’s never quite clear why her parents divorced or what kind of impact it had on Ami, we do know that at the time it definitely left her in the minority, and may have been partially responsible for part of her isolation from the other students in her class.7 One thing that is interesting to note is that while we associate the names of all of the Sailor Team with the female sailor soldiers, their last names actually all come from their fathers – and Ami is no exception. It definitely brings up the interesting question of how lineage works in the Sailor Moon universe, and how things change in Crystal Tokyo (no “Usagi Chiba” here!).

In another world and another time, it would’ve been interesting to see how Ami – the brains of the team – turned out if she lived with her father. At least I know I’d be interested in seeing it!

How Did Naoko’s Part-Time Job Influence the Creation of Rei?

Our Eager Miko

Our Eager Miko

The answer to this question can be really short or surprisingly quite long, depending on how deep you want to get into it. Of course, the quick and easy answer is that “Rei is a miko because she lives at a Shinto shrine,” but like most things in the Sailor Moon universe, things aren’t that simple (nor would it be interesting if they were!). We’ve already discussed the interesting religious (in)significance of Rei attending a Catholic school, so let’s take a closer look at the inspirations behind her more obvious religious affiliations!

Fortunately for us, Ms. Takeuchi directly addresses this question in her ~~ Punch! question and answer segment added to the end of the re-released manga volumes around 2003/2004 (the shinsouban; “new editions”).1

Continue Reading

Is Usagi Much Smarter Than the Series Implies?

This Might Not Be As Bad As It Looks

This Might Not Be As Bad As It Looks

Or, an alternative title for this question could be: “Is Usagi Really Just a Victim of Circumstances?” What I love most about answering these questions is having the opportunity to stop and take a look at the accepted facts of the Sailor Moon universe, break them down, and analyze them with respect to how they fit into the real world. When it comes down to the core elements of Usagi’s personality – the titular character in Pretty Soldier Sailor Moon – her supposed lack of intelligence is one of her defining attributes. I know I’ve talked a lot about intelligence already, but I think Usagi deserves a second look… and maybe even an apology.

Continue Reading

How Did Fans React to the Deaths of the Sailor Soldiers?

Some Serious Sailor Moon Fans

Some Serious Sailor Moon Fans

Though it seems that Ms. Takeuchi was stopped at the last minute by her editor, Fumio Osano, from killing the Sailor Team at the end of the Dark Kingdom arc, their anime counterparts weren’t quite so lucky. For a show which strayed even more into family-friendly territory (which can be seen often with the comical moments between Rei and Usagi that didn’t exist in the manga) and even cut out some of the deaths from the series (such as Jadeite being killed in the manga and frozen in to an eternal slumber, Princess Serenity’s suicide in the manga after the death of Prince Endymion, etc.), it’s a bit odd that they’d go the opposite direction and actually kill off the main cast in the epic climax. So after being lulled into this false sense of security, how did the fans react? And, by extension, their parents?

June 1993 Animage

June 1993 Animage

The information for this article comes from the June 1993 issue of Animage magazine.1

The first, and most widely-publicized, story comes from a midnight radio DJ for Radio Fukushima, Arata Owada.2 As the story goes, he used to would watch Sailor Moon together with his daughter every Saturday and was shocked to watch the Sailor Team fall one by one. He was so upset by this that he actually called up TV Asahi and demanded to know what they planned to do about the characters. Since he often discussed anime on his late-night radio show – and was vocal about his concerns – he eventually caught the attention of Animage, which asked him to do a phone interview.

In the interview, he said that his daughter was so shocked by the ending that she came down for a 40°C (104°F) fever and stayed home from kindergarten for a week. When he finally took her to the doctor, he was told it was autointoxication3 and the doctor asked if she had suffered some sort of trauma or shock recently.

Nothing Can Stop a Fan

Nothing Can Stop a Fan

Another – and perhaps more interesting – story comes from a fan-letter section in the same issue of Animage called “Mom’s Too!” In it, a 32 year old mother offered her opinion on the matter. She noted that in real life, people don’t die and then magically come back, so she was opposed to the idea of the Sailor Team so imply being “reset” and then coming back to life as if nothing had happened. She was concerned that her daughter would take away the opposite lesson: that people die and come back, that death isn’t permanent, and may lose out on the importance of life.

Looking around on the internet also gives various anecdotal stories from people about their classmates not coming to school or the author themselves not being able to eat for several days after watching the climax to the first season, so it’s pretty apparent that the impact these episodes had on Sailor Moon fans was huge.

Personally, though, I think it’s a good thing – it really shows that what could be written off as a simple anime really did touch people’s lives, and that the TV Asahi staff did a wonderful job of making these characters real. Isn’t that really the greatest compliment?

 

Why Does ChibiUsa Have Pink Hair?

Pink Hair'd Rabbits

Pink Hair’d Rabbits

The most direct – and simplest – answer as to why ChibiUsa has pink hair ties closely into the fact that Ms. Takeuchi had originally intended for ChibiUsa to literally be something of a little Usagi, in-so-far that much of her character designs, birthday, likes and dislikes, all can be directly tied back to Usagi herself. So to start with our conclusion and work our way backwards: the reason why ChibiUsa has pink hair is because of Usagi’s hair. Now, let’s work our way backwards!

Continue Reading

What Food Did Makoto Make For Her Lunch?

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal Episode 5

Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Crystal Episode 5

This is, admittedly, a really silly question and goes way into detail about really tiny things. But these are actually my favorite types of questions because they really make you think and also analyze the context of the Sailor Moon universe and how it fits in (intentionally and unintentionally) with the real world. So with that out of the way, let’s dive right in and discuss: what was Makoto eating when Usagi decided to make friends (and quiet her trumpet-playing stomach)?

Well, like all seemingly simple questions concerning Sailor Moon, this question sounds incredibly simple but has a lot more depth to it than you’d first imagine. Most importantly, her lunch differs ever-so-slightly between the manga, original anime, and the Crystal reboot. Making matters worse, Makoto had already started eating in the 90s anime, and the manga image is slightly cut off, leaving us guessing on the full contents. Crystal, however, gives us a good, clear shot, so we’re okay there.

Let’s take this one by one, then:

The Manga

Manga Lunch (vol. 1, p. 168 of the original manga)

Manga Lunch (vol. 1, p. 168 of the original manga)

From what we can see in this picture (and in the other scenes we briefly get), she has:

  • small takikomi gohan1 riceballs (x3)
  • fried croquettes2 (x2)
  • green peppers wrapped in meat (probably bacon) (x2)
  • cherry tomatoes (x2)
  • spaghetti
  • boiled quail eggs (x2)

For someone who wasn’t expecting Usagi to come along and help her out with lunch, that’s quite a respectable lunch she has there! To be honest, this (relatively) simple lunch fits in the best with her being a junior high school girl living alone, in my opinion. But doesn’t quite show off her famous cooking skills!

The Original Anime

Original Anime Lunch (ep. 25)

Original Anime Lunch (ep. 25)

Once again, this scene actually starts with Makoto eating so we can’t get 100% accuracy here, but from what we get to see, her lunch consists of:

  • normal-sized takikomi gohan riceballs (x3)
  • croquettes (x2)
  • cherry tomatoes (x2)
  • little chick3 boiled quail eggs (x2)
  • cheese hamburger patty
  • glazed carrots4
  • parsley
  • meatball (we see her eating one)
  • ketchup packet

Honestly, compared to the manga I think that the anime really shows off Makoto’s cooking skills. Glazed carrots and specially cut boiled quail eggs are no mean feat to make in the morning, especially before school. Definitely impressive!

The Crystal Anime

Crystal Anime Lunch (ep. 5)

Crystal Anime Lunch (ep. 5)

Last but not least, we have Makoto’s lunch as served up in Sailor Moon Crystal. What did Makoto bring to share today?

  • small(ish?) takikomi gohan riceballs (x3)
  • fried fish with tartar sauce (x2)
  • octopus-shaped wieners5 (x2)
  • spaghetti
  • cherry tomatoes (x2)
  • boiled green beans
  • tamagoyaki6 (x2)

I’d say that the Crystal lunch places nicely between the manga and the original anime when it comes to skill required for cooking (and uniqueness of her lunch). Definitely more intense that the manga, but could be thrown together in less time than the original anime version.

More than anything else, though, I’d say I’m actually most surprised by how consistent her lunch had stayed throughout all these versions – and spanning over twenty years, might I add! As for which I’d rather eat the most? I’d probably say the lunch as it appears in Crystal, since it’s definitely the most diverse. I always want to try making this someday!

1 11 12 13 14 15 18